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All this is calculated to excite derision, not resentment; and when reason and experience ponder what the end may be, anger sinks into pity. Not only is frail man every moment at the mercy of a Being, almighty to save and to destroy; but the proudest and mightiest is every moment in the power of the weakest and meanest of his fellow-creatures. The tongue of the wretch whom thou despisest, may ruin thy reputation for ever. The crawling insect in thy path is armed with deadly poison against thy life. That nodding wall threatens to crush thee to pieces. Arm thee at all points, as well as thou canst, malice or hatred, envy or revenge will still find some part unguarded; and, bleeding to death, thou shalt find thou wert not invulnerable. Those who are distinguished by their rank, their abilities, or their virtues, attract the notice of many observers, and create to themselves many open and many more secretenemies. The history of Sisera, the captain of the host of Jabin, king of Canaan, is a striking illustration of most of these remarks. In him, we see a man rendered insolent by success, intoxicated with prosperity, betrayed into disgrace through confidence of victory, the dupe of confidence in his own strength, and then the victim of confidence, equally unwise, in the fidelity and attachment of a stranger. We behold him in the morning, advancing to the unequal conflict at the head of a mighty and hitherto invincible host; in the evening, a bleeding corpse, fallen ingloriously by the hand of a woman. Deborah, the prophetess of Israel, having transfused the patriotic ardour of her soul into Barak, not only directs him what he should do, but offers herself as the companion of the expedition which she had planned. With ten thousand men of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali under his command, Barak takes possession of mount Tabor, meaning to act only on the defensive, till Providence should point out an occasion of acting to advantage. The rashness and impetuosity of Sisera soon presented him with such an opportunity. Enraged to think that an enemy so often discomfited, so long oppressed, so broken by calamity, should presume to make head against their lordly masters, he collects the whole of his vast strength, and invests the mountain, determined to crush the puny insurrection at one blow.
The sagacious judge, and divinely inspired prophet. ess of Israel, observes the season to be favourable, observes that the unwieldly army of the Canaanites was ready to fall in pieces by its own weight, that their vain confidence was destroying them, and that, above all, Heaven was propitious. She gives the signal of attack, and lo, “one chases a thousand, and ten put ten thousand to flight.” The cause was of God, and it prospers; and the mighty hand and out-stretched arm of Jehovah, once more asserts Israel into liberty.
Whatever praise is to be ascribed to the conduct of Barak on this occasion, and to the intrepidity of his little army, it is evident, from some expressions in the song of praise, composed in celebration of the victory, that the defeat of the Canaanites was in part, at least, miraculous. “They fought from Heaven.” “The stars in their eourses,” it is said, “fought against Sisera.” By “the stars” some interpreters understand “the angels of God,” who are sometimes designated by that name. Josephus takes the words in a different sense, and affirms, that an extraordinary storm of rain, mixed with hail, blinded the eyes of the Canaanites, and drove back their darts upon their own heads. The Rabbins, with still less appearance of probability, alledge, that certain constellations of a pastilential influence, consumed the army of Sisera, burnt them up with thirst, and drove them for refreshment to the brook Kishon, where they were met in a languid, enfeebled state, by the troops of Deborah and Barak, and put to the sword. The expedition from first to last, was without controversy conducted and vol. III. 2 F
crowned by the hand of Providence. But the narration of the event, on the sacred page, is too general and concise, to enable us to pronounce with confidence, where the province of human sagacity and valour ended; and where the interposition of Heaven began. However it were, the victory was complete; the enemy was totally routed and put to the edge of the sword; , the commander in chief alone escapes the universal carnage of the field; and he, who a little before had nine hundred chariots of iron at his disposal, sees himself stripped of all, and is constrained to consult his safety by flight. A prince without subjects, and a general without an army, shrink into poor, wretched, solitary individuals, the more to be pitied, from the giddy height whence they have fallen, The history drops the myriads which composed the army of Sisera, into a silent grave; and pursues the sad tale of the unhappy man himself up to his tragical death. Seeing his army slaughtered and put to flight, and himself in danger of falling into the hands of triumphant Israel, he alights from his chariot, and flees away on foot. “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” What a sad reverse, within the compass of one short day! And to such reverses, human life is eternally liable. The greatest of uninspired bards has put this passionate exclamation in the mouth of a dethroned monarch of our own country, addressing himself to his few wretched attendants, the poor remains of his departed state:
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
Behold the mighty Sisera weary and faint with thirst,
without one, of so many thousands, to assist or comfort his flight, seeking refuge from his pursuers in the tents of an allied power, Heber the Kenite. By looking back to the book of Numbers, chap. x. we find that Hobab, the son of Raguel or Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, had left his native residence, to attend the camp of Israel as their guide through the wilderness, and had been persuaded by Moses, his brother-in-law, to cast in his lot among that people, upon a solemn assurance, that, on their settlement in Canaan, he, and his family, and descendants, should share in the fruits of victory, and obtain a portion in the land promised to the children of Abraham. This accounts for our finding them established, at such a distance of time, in the border of Kedesh Naphtali. On the invasion of the country, however, by Jabin, king of Canaan, we find them observing a strict neutrality. “There was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor, and the house of Heber the Kenite,” Verse 17. In the confidence of this, Sisera betakes himself to the Kenite for protection; and is received by Jael, the wife of Heber, with every mark of humanity and respect, due to a great man, and a friend, in distress. She brings him milk to quench his thirst, covers him carefully up in her own tent to repose himself from the vexation and fatigue of that disastrous day, and to conceal him from the pursuit of Barak. She promises inviolably to keep secret the place of his concealment; and relying on that promise, weary and worn out, he falls into a profound sleep. Jael avails herself of his defenceless situation, and siezing such arms as were at hand, a hammer and one of the pins or nails used in stretching out the tent, she transfixes the head of the unhappy sleeper as he lay along, and with redoubled blows fastens the bleeding temples to the ground. Such was the inglorious end of a man, on whom that morning's sun had risen with a smiling aspect; who awoke from sleep in the possession of all that royal favour could bestow, all that sovereign power could compel, all that flattering hope could promise. Of the motives which could impel Jael to such a deed of horror, we have no information. Her conduct, we know, is celebrated in the Song of Deborah, in terms of the strongest approbation; which obliges us to conclude that there are circumstances in the story, which the Spirit of God has not thought proper to disclose. The great Jehovah needs not a vindication of his conduct, from the labour and ingenuity of a wretched, ignorant mortal. He has but to discover a few little particulars, which are as yet hid from our eyes, and then, what now confounds and overwhelms our understanding, becomes clear and intelligible to the meanest capacity. Instead, therefore, of vainly and resumptuously attempting to reconcile this action of }. with the laws of morality, which, by the glimmering light we have, is impossible, we shall make a few observations on the history, of a general and practical nature. And I. We repeat, what has been already suggested, “that human reason is a very incompetent judge of divine proceeding.” We know so little, so very little of the system of nature; our own constitution is such an inexplicable mystery to ourselves; we meet every where so many difficulties, contradictions, defects, redundancies; at least we take upon us to think and call them so, as must lead us to this conclusion, that, either the work of God is imperfect, or that we cannot find out him and his work unto perfection. Now the little reason we have, cannot hesitate an instant in ehoosing its side of this alternative. And if we confessedly are unqualified to judge of that which is less, dare we presume to pronounce concerning that which is greater. If the volume of nature, spread open to the perusal at once of our senses and our reason, present many things not only hard, but impossible to be ‘understood, can we deem ourselves qualified or en